Matt Law had to convince his wife, Susie, that downtown Minneapolis was the place to be after their last child left the nest in Minnetonka.
The couple had raised their three children in a large suburban multilevel home for 20 years, and Susie, a small-town Minnesota girl, wasn’t sure how she would adjust to condo life in the city.
But Matt, who grew up in Hong Kong, was drawn to living in a vibrant metropolitan area — and wanted to see the flowing water of the Mississippi River every day.
“It was Matt’s turn to pick where we live,” Susie said. The couple spent 18 months searching for a downtown condo with everything on their wish list.
It wasn’t easy to find a unit with an elevated Mississippi River view, ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 square feet in size, and in a building that allowed their dog, Saku. “We have the holidays with our kids and grandchildren, and also wanted enough room to entertain up to 20 people,” said Susie, an avid cook.
But while house-hunting, the Laws felt like Goldilocks — the units were too small with cutup spaces, or too big and out of their price range. So in 2015, they reluctantly moved on to “Plan B” and decided to buy a townhouse in Golden Valley.
However, their real estate agent didn’t give up. He asked the Laws to send him the list of condo buildings they wanted to live in, and he contacted some homeowners to see if they were considering selling. The strategy worked.
The Laws found an eighth-floor unit in the Bridgewater Lofts in the Mill District off Washington Avenue S.
The three-bedroom 2,400-square-foot condo boasted full-height windows framing vistas of the mighty Mississippi, St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge. While on the balcony, the couple could see the Guthrie Theater’s Endless Bridge.
Still, the 2006 “basic-builder” condo undeniably lacked character and architectural details — plus each wall was painted a different primary color. But the unit was the right size — and the right price — so the Laws snapped it up.
“If we found the right designer, we knew we could make it work for us,” Susie said.
Interior designers Lisa Peck and Ally Evander of Lilu Interiors in Minneapolis took on the challenge.
“It was a drywall box with concrete columns and not much personality,” Peck said. “We wanted to elevate the design and give each space its own sense of place.”
The designers’ cosmopolitan-meets-comfort style infuses everything from mica-flecked wallpaper in a new wine room to a sleek Sputnik-style light fixture, while keeping the spaces warm, welcoming and kid-friendly.
Today the Laws are a long way from their suburban minivan-driving days. They walk almost everywhere, including U.S. Bank Stadium for Vikings games, the new Trader Joe’s down the block, Gold Medal Park with Saku, and Izzy’s Ice Cream with their grandchildren. On weekends, they watch couples posing for prom and wedding photos on the picturesque Stone Arch Bridge.
“I love it way more than I thought,” Susie said. “It’s really easy to live here.”
Matt especially savors the views of the river and falls. “I like water,” he said. “It calms me.”
CONDO DESIGN RECIPE
Modernism marries multi-functionality
The Lilu Interiors team’s design solutions had to balance the empty-nester couple’s divergent styles.
“If it looked like the W Hotel, he would be happy,” said Susie, referring to Matt’s ultramodern taste. She yearned for comfortable, inviting spaces for entertaining large family gatherings, durable for kids and with plenty of storage.
“I was willing to go modern — but not chilly,” she said. “It’s cold enough in Minnesota.”
An open floor plan with tall ceilings feels more cozy and intimate with space-defining elements.
Peck integrated quartered cherry veneer built-in cabinetry, textural area rugs and an upholstered bench. Wood panels were used to mark the entry to the owners’ bedroom. Two custom-built ceiling boxes add ambient LED lighting while defining the living and dining areas.
Warm up a modern aesthetic
Lilu Interiors chose soft textures and fabrics for furniture, rugs and host-and-hostess dining-table chairs.
“We like to mix metals,” said Evander, furnishing the living room with a gold-toned lamp and a curved metal cocktail table that the grandkids often pound on like a drum. Light fixtures and chair legs display silver finishes.
Color, such as “spicy red” hues on a side table and chairs and blue and green throw pillows, inject pops of personality.
Repeat and refresh
For the new backdrop, Lilu Interiors painted the walls taupe, and refinished the natural stained hickory floors. Since the Laws were keeping the existing cherry veneer cabinets in the kitchen, Peck repeated that look, albeit with creative combinations of vertical and horizontal grain patterns, in built-ins for storage and display. The new quartered cherry veneer cabinetry also visually ties the free-flowing spaces together.
Genius dining table
Susie requested a dining-room table that can seat up to 18 for holiday meals, yet fit within the condo’s space plan. Lilu Interiors collaborated with Bjorling & Grant to design and build a table with two leaves that expands the width, rather than the length, to form a big square. The arched metal base is a nod to the nearby Stone Arch Bridge. The Arteriors mod glass light fixture doesn’t block the view out the window.
“I love when this big table is filled with family and food — it reminds me of Tuscany,” Susie said.
The Laws have half the square footage of their Minnetonka home — and a lot less storage space. So Peck added a streamlined floating built-in buffet to hold china, glassware and serving pieces.
Flex room for wine and games
Matt is a wine collector, so the Laws decided to turn an empty space, originally intended for an office, into a wine room and bar. Silver mica-flecked wallpaper covers the blingy wine-display wall, which holds up to 40 bottles. A wine cellar-style cork floor replaced carpet. The cherry veneer custom bar cabinets match other cabinetry in the condo.
The space is quite small — but lives large as a spot to play board games or a dinner-party gathering magnet. “It’s like a little getaway at home,” Peck said.
Bedroom with a view
The Laws wanted to position the bed on a far wall facing the Stone Arch Bridge, but the area was obstructed by a structural concrete column. The solution was to place a massive cherry veneer custom shelving unit behind the bed for storage, as well as to create a half wall next to the column. “The concrete column was awkward before but now feels purposeful,” Peck said.
Built-in cantilevered nightstands on each side of the bed save space.
Peck and Evander made sure their design emphasized objets d’art so “when you walk in, you get the feeling that the people who live here are world travelers and art collectors,” Peck said. The designers even carved out an art gallery nook, with a settee below a favorite Rollin Alm oil painting, illuminated by mixed-metal sconces.
“We drink coffee here and watch the sunrise,” Susie said.